Central WA farm workers weigh in on heat protection efforts

Heat can severely affect outdoor workers. Because of the danger of working in extreme heat, the Washington Department of Labor and Industries, L&I, is developing permanent rules to protect outdoor workers. Emergency rules are in place until September. However, farmworkers in Central Washington have mixed opinions on the regulations, while advocates call for enforcement.

Maria Rojas from Prosser says her employer cares for farm workers. “As the temperature rises, which is 85 or 90 degrees Fahrenheit, they stop us at any time of the day. There is usually water for everyone,” says Rojas.

But Rojas’ relatives, who work elsewhere, told her they had been working long hours in the heat. “At the ranch where my dad works, last week it went up to 100. He told me that he had left work at about 3:30, and it was too hot. He says it was unfair,” says Rojas.

Her dad’s wife worked under similar conditions in a different place in Mabton. Working in the fields under high temperatures in Washington is hard. Rojas says the intensity of heat depends on the type of crops grown. “In the grape, there is almost no shade. If you walk with big trees, for example, cherry or apple, sometimes you are more protected. You don’t feel the sun directly on your face or back. If it’s 80, in the hop blocks, it feels like it’s 120,” says Rojas.

Read the complete article at www.crosscut.com.

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